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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Losing Ugly.

The '03 Sox are memorable for all the wrong reasons.


by Bradley Joseph

 

It is truly painful to bring oneself to write about the Chicago White Sox at a time like this.  No hitting.  Poor managing.  Garland is terrible and then complains about being booed.  Comiskey Park is called The Cell.  The Cubs have good pitching.  The weather is often abysmal . . .  yadayadayadayada . . .

 

We must press on.

 

It seems that Jerry Manuel is now, officially, the primary target of all major media outlets in Chicago, and it’s about time.  However, it is surprising how overly simplistic many media members are in assessing why Manuel should be axed.  They all seem to agree that Manuel’s “demeanor” is too lethargic or “laid back” for him to manage successfully.  I say that’s just hogwash.  Successful managers and/or coaches have proven to come in all shapes and sizes.  Joe Torre isn’t exactly Billy Martin, and neither is the North Side’s new darling, Dusty Baker (and by the way, if I see one more article about little Darren Baker – cute as he is – I will throw myself off a bridge).  No, do not can Manuel because he is relaxed.  Fire him because, as discussed in my previous two columns, he sucks at making decisions.

 

One prominent sportswriter actually defended Jerry Manuel by pointing out that the majority of teams that made the playoffs last year had, at this point last season, records comparable to the Sox current record.  An ingenious point . . . if Manuel hadn’t already proven his inability for the past two full seasons.  Do not can the Man because the sox are off to a rocky start this season.  If this season were the only info we had on Manuel, he would deserve a chance to right the ship.  No! Fire him because they are off to their third shaky start in three seasons, the past two of which they never recovered from, and in all of which they were predicted by many to win their division, and in all of which Manuel has contributed to their slide with a consistent barrage of boneheaded decisions. 

 

My point is that whether you fire Manuel or not, the decision should not be based on his “demeanor” or a one-year statistical aberration where many teams made the playoffs after a bad start. The decision should be primarily based on whether Jerry Manuel knows what the heck he is doing when he makes a pitching change, or fills out a lineup card.  And again, in these realms, he has demonstrated consistent incompetence, and that is why he should go.

 

Now as for the Sox’s stinky hitting.  Wow, it is ugly.  If they were winnin’ ugly in ‘83, they’re loosin’ ugly in ‘03.  Lest we forget that these almost-same White Sox scored 978 runs in 2000.  978 RUNS!!!!  That’s mammoth run production.  So what happened?

 

Last Sunday night I watched, in person, as Carlos Lee struck out on a 1-2 count.  The notable thing about this strikeout is that he was swinging from his heels . . . trying to knock the fresh coat off the newly painted metal pipes behind the concourse.  On a 1-2 count!  Stop that! 

 

What I remember most about that 2000 team is that they batted around with incredible regularity.  They did not just try to bombard teams with homeruns, but instead bombarded them with hit after hit after hit in whatever form the hits would come.  Three singles, a double, another single, a walk, a double. . . you remember too, don’t you?  It is not that they couldn’t hit with power, but rather, that power was not the focus of their hitting. 

 

So I did a little research.  And sure enough, since 2000, the power numbers of what I will call the three x-factors (not Xmen) have gone up, but the overall run production of these three players, and hence the team, has gone down.  The x-factors are Paul Konerko, Carlos Lee, and Jose Valentin.  I did not include Frank Thomas in the study because he just sucks anymore, and there is nothing he or Walt Hriniak can do about it, nor did I include Maggs because he is exactly the same hitter he was in 2000.   However, Konerko, Lee, and Valentin have been very similar over the past three seasons, except for one subtle and alarming tendency

 

Behold the numbers:

 

Valentin’s on-base percentage dropped 32 points between 2000 and 2002.  His homers only increased from 25 to 28 in 2001, and then dropped back to 25 in 2002, but his homeruns per at bat have increased significantly.  In 2000 Jose hat a homerun every 22.7 at bats.  That increased to a dinger every 15.6 at bats in 2001 and decreased a little to one every 18.8 AB in 2002. 

 

Konerko only hit 21 homeruns in 2000, and followed that with 32 & 27 HR seasons respectively.  But his OBP has never again reached the .363 he peaked at in 2000.  Furthermore, while his RBI’s have gone up slightly from year to year, his RBI’s per AB have never again been as prolific as in 2000 when he had one for every 5.4 AB – this statistic decreased to an RBI every 5.9 AB in 2001.

 

Carlos Lee’s homerun frequency has gradually increased from one every 23.8 AB in 2000, to one every 23.1 in 2001, to every 18.9 in 2002.  But despite his increased proficiency with the long ball, Lee’s runs scored decreased from an excellent 107 in 2000 to a modest 75 and 82 respectively in the past two seasons.

 

I have only provided a sampling of the evidence, but rest assured, the whole of the statistics, as well as simple empirical observation, bear one obvious conclusion.  Over the past three seasons, my three designated x-factor players have increased their homerun frequency, but decreased in most other more important statistics such as on-base percentage, runs scored, and runs batted in.  And of course, the Sox seasonal run totals prove the problematic nature of this data, as they have never again pushed the thousand run barrier, as in the 2000 season.  They dropped to 798 in 2001, then rose to a slightly better 856 in 2002, before ultimately coming to rest in their current state of full-out anemia.

 

My point?  Control your bats!  Stop swinging for the fences so often.  All three of these guys need to get back to consistently hitting line drives like they did in 2000.  Lineup the hit parade, not the HR parade, and success as a T-E-A-M should follow.  Paul, there was nothing wrong with your 21 bombs in 2000.  Sox fans are ok with 21 bombs if the rest of your stats are higher.  Same goes for Joser and Carlos.  Lets get back to what made this team an offensive stalwart . . . . hits, hits, hits.  Forget the fireworks, and try to remember what it was like to bat around with nice, easy, sweet swings spraying darts all over the field. 

 


 

Bradley Josesph grew up in Aurora, IL, but now resides in downstate Bloomington where he teaches English at Heartland Community College.  He became an obsessive Sox fan in 1983 when he was 8 years old.  Brad struggles to maintain sanity living in central Illinois because it is saturated with Cubs and Cardinals fans.  Regular attempts to subtly brainwash his students into Sox fans have proven largely unsuccessful.  Brad’s White Sox memories include being struck in the chest by a Carlos Lee homerun ball and catching two foul balls in one game against the Devil Rays while vacationing in Tampa.  Both of these events happened during the glorious 2000 season, leading Brad to consider himself an instrument of cosmologically orchestrated events that were a sure-fire omen of a division title.  He of course is crazy, but in a good way.  Feel free to contact Brad at bwjosep@yahoo.com

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